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UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa - Predictions and Picks

It
It's a big show this weekend as Israel Adesanya faces Paulo Costa in the main event of UFC 253.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 21 Sep 2020, 22:58 IST
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The UFC returns to Abu Dhabi's's Fight Island this weekend for UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa. The UFC Middleweight title is on the line in the main event, while in the co-main event, Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes are set to face off for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight title.

Outside of those top two fights, there isn't too much to the card. But to be frank, that doesn't matter – these are two of the most intriguing-sounding UFC title fights in a long time and are must-see for any MMA fan.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa.


#1 UFC Middleweight Title: Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa

Paulo Costa
Paulo Costa's last UFC fight saw him defeat Yoel Romero in a thriller.

Throughout its history, the UFC hasn't actually seen many title fights between two undefeated fighters. The last such example was Rashad Evans'' UFC Light Heavyweight title defense against Lyoto Machida over a decade ago, a fight that ended with a new champion being crowned.

Will this fight between two undefeated combatants end in the same way? To be honest, it's's a tough fight to pick.

The reigning UFC Middleweight champion, Adesanya, has seen a rise through the ranks of the promotion like few others in the UFC's's history. ''The Last Stylebender'' only debuted in the UFC in 2018 and has since run through eight straight opponents.

Essentially, Adesanya's fighting style is probably the closest thing the UFC has seen to the great Anderson Silva when he was in his prime. Like Silva, the New Zealand-based Nigerian uses pinpoint, accurate striking to pick his opponents apart while showing incredible reflexes to avoid punishment in return.

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It's not impossible to hit Adesanya, as Kelvin Gastelum showed in their fight at UFC 236. However, like Silva, he's's also got a seemingly granite jaw, and naturally, whatever his opponents throw at him tends to be answered by a nasty counter.

Strangely for a reigning UFC champion, there are still plenty of questions to be answered about Adesanya's overall game. ''The Last Stylebender'' has never really been taken down by an opponent, and only Marvin Vettori really tested him in the clinch.

However, it's unlikely that Costa will be the man to test him in those areas. ''The Eraser'' actually entered the third season of TUF: Brazil with a reputation as a grappler – he submitted his opponent in the pre-house fights. But since arriving in the UFC proper in 2018, he's's established himself as a ridiculously powerful striker.

One of the most terrifying physical specimens in the UFC, Costa is probably the closest thing the promotion has right now to 2010-era Alistair Overeem. Like ''The Reem'', Costa stalks his opponent with constant forward pressure, aiming power punches at the head and the body while looking to mash his opponent in the clinch with knees and elbows.

Where ''The Eraser'' differs to ''Ubereem'' is that – judging by his fights with Uriah Hall and Yoel Romero at least – his chin is pretty stout. Overeem never weathered punishment all that well, but Costa took some serious shots from Romero and never really stopped pushing forward.

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Sure, he tired out pretty badly in that fight. But he also threw a ludicrous amount of shots at the Cuban in an attempt to put him away, something no other opponent – including Adesanya – had done at Middleweight.

Basically then, this fight should come down to two simple questions. Can Costa walk Adesanya down and hit him harder than he's's been hit before and put him away? Or can ''The Last Stylebender'' catch the challenger with sharper counters as he attempts to push forward, putting him away or wearing him down for a decision?

It's incredibly tricky to call because obviously we've never seen either man lose a fight before, and to be honest, neither man has really faced an opponent like they're about to this weekend. Add in the fact that the two have been slinging insults at one another for about two years now, and this is an incredibly personal fight that could go either way.

The x-factor, though, could well be Costa's's grappling ability. Sure, he hasn't actually used it in the UFC, but he does have a submission win on his ledger. We saw him take his opponents down on TUF, and Adesanya may not be expecting him to attack in that way. I doubt he'll be able to submit Adesanya, but switching it up to go with ground-and-pound could definitely be a possibility.

I'd give Adesanya the advantage in the cardio department, but based on Costa's forward-pressuring style, I just don't see this one going the distance. So like Evans vs. Machida 11 years ago, I'm going with a new UFC champion being crowned in this one.

The Pick: Costa via third-round TKO

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Published 21 Sep 2020, 22:58 IST
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